Addiction is Tough

If I’m going to save my child I have to be tougher

To those who believe addiction is a choice, I’m writing from experience that has taught me otherwise. To those of you who love an addict, I know how hard it is. Keep fighting. To my daughter,Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”- Rumi

Al-Anon teaches how to detach from alcoholism so it doesn’t negatively affect you. I can’t say for sure but my gut instinct tells me whoever developed the idea of detachment did not have a child who suffers from IV drug addiction.

I say “suffer” because when I reflect on what I’ve witnessed, I feel my heart torn from my chest, stomped on, run over, set on fire, put through a grinder and then, during a frantic attempt to put the pieces back together, discover it’s no longer beating.

I also feel proud because she is the strongest warrior I have ever known.

My words come from a place of moral compass which determines whether or not I can live with myself and the decisions I’ve made. I could never give up on my child. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. There is no limit to what I would do to save her.

To clarify, I am not in denial. I have awareness that I can’t save her. I’ve heard it before and most times it’s the only advice others offer. “She has to save herself,” and I thoroughly agree, but considering she’s controlled by something more powerful than her, me and every human on earth, it’s entirely unfair to expect her to make the safest decisions.

No one wakes up and thinks, What should I do today? I think I’ll destroy everything in my path by using drugs, and then become addicted so I physically and emotionally can’t survive without them.

I have watched what would have been my rock bottom over and over again, each time unfolding before my eyes but the difference is my mind and body have not been taken hostage by dangerous, altering substances.

The Merriam-Webster definition of addiction is, persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful, but those who are addicted know the real life meaning is you no longer can survive without it.

My responsibility as a mother is to keep my child safe. If she were to fall I would jump to catch her. If she were in a burning building I would run in to save her. If she had cancer I would liquidate everything I own to provide her the best, most comfortable care in the world. She’s 23 years old and my innate reaction is to tell her to put her seat belt on. I would do anything within my grasp, and beyond, to keep her safe.

Why would addiction be different? No, I can’t save her but I can, and will, do everything within my power to keep her safe until she figures out for herself what will.

I’m not making excuses or justifications. It’s a shit deal for all involved and she’s in the top slot. We’ve been through the inconceivable, and as a mother I must somehow master the perfect balance of non-negotiable boundaries and nurturing. I smile with warmth and assure her we’ll get through this together when the truth is I’m just as scared.

I set the last of my writing materials and art supplies in the box as my husband and son carry my desk away. We’re clearing my office out to prepare for her first overnight pass. She asked if she could move her bedroom in there. A fresh start, a new beginning, whatever her reason may be, it’s a step and every step is progress.

She’s currently living in a residential treatment facility while participating in an intensive, daily chemical dependency program off grounds. In October 2018, my husband and I made a challenging decision as parents for the second time. We filed a substance abuse and mental health petition application with the court to have her taken into custody for an evaluation, just as we had in spring 2017.

This is an act of desperation. If the court finds her incapable of making sound healthcare choices they will commit her. She will be angry. I don’t blame her but at the same time, if we’re at this point, she’s been given every opportunity to voluntarily seek help. She’ll think we’re against her when in actuality, every decision we make is to give her a chance.

In order to get a judge to sign a pick up order we’re required to provide verifiable documentation such as police reports, hospital and behavioral health records. A court hearing is scheduled within five days to review the doctor’s psych evaluation recommendation. The judge will either drop the petition or order treatment depending on the recommendation.

I consider it a win that the petition is granted but only because I believe this is not the life she wants to live. In order for her to realize it she must be clean, and she can’t stay clean unless she’s safely locked up, but here’s the thing — she’s now a ward of the court and forced into a substandard system.

It’s up to me to make calls every day, reach out to those involved with her treatment plan, consistently follow up and randomly show up in order to check up, because if I don’t she will fall through the cracks of a broken system designed, at best, to maintain people.

I’ve known parents who have left their child in jail. “That’ll teach ‘em,” they said or, “there must be consequences for their actions.” Criminal activity is a symptom of addiction, it is not an act of character, and I believe they live with the consequences every day. They survive with their addiction.

Maybe in terms of addiction, “save” means to give her the opportunity to help herself, to wake up each day and live instead of survive, and to reach her goals because she deserves to. It weighs heavy on me to have had to take such drastic measure but I’ll also sleep better tonight without the fear she may die from an overdose.

It will take time to recover and rebuild as individuals and a family, and that process won’t truly begin until she’s stable. Our family is working equally as hard in our own way as she is in her recovery, and offering love, strength and support through each stage. I have no idea what the future holds. All I have is hope. It really is a matter of one day at a time but for today, we’re anxious for tomorrow to get here, because she will be home.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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